5 Really, Really Bad Predictions

Not sure which automotive conference to attend this year? We recommend the Driving Sales Executive Summit and here’s why:

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P.S. This Really Works!

Most professional copywriters know that in a sales letter, the most important item after the headline is the postscript (P.S.) at the bottom. Research shows that when people open a letter, they often scan to the bottom and read the P.S. before they actually read the letter itself. A good writer will take advantage of this opportunity to maximize their message with a strong P.S.

Do your salespeople know that including a P.S. in their emails is also incredibly effective?

It is such an easy way to increase the impact of your emails. That simple sentence at the bottom of a two or three paragraph email can help you increase urgency, reinforce your main message and add value.

Here are a couple of ideas on what you might include in your P.S.:

1. Main Theme with a Twist
Restate your main benefit from a different perspective. Whether or not they read the whole email, this gives you another chance to deliver your most important information.

2. The Time is Now
Use the P.S. to add urgency. Are the incentives expiring in a few days? Do you only have two left of the particular model in the color they are looking for? Let them know.

3. Add Social Proof
This can be a great place to add a customer review, especially if the review reinforces your particular offer or deals with a common objection or concern people have.

4. Sweeten the Deal
Is there a bonus offer you can add? Here’s the place to do it. For instance, “P.S. – Since it’s raining today and the showroom is a little quiet, my sales manager is including floor mats with the next vehicle sold.”

The P.S. should appear right below your signature line and should only be a sentence or two. Make sure it includes a call to action at the end as well.

P.S.
If you want to see exactly how adding a P.S. to your email makes a difference, include a unique URL in the P.S. so you can measure the clicks.

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7 Easy Ways To Get More of Your Emails and Automotive Newsletters Opened

If you could improve the performance of each of your email campaigns by 10% – what would that mean to your sales and service revenue in a year’s time?

When your customer receives your email or automotive newsletter, their decision to open it is based on two things: who it is from and what the subject line says.

For this post, let’s look at seven easy things you can do to improve your subject lines so more of your emails and automotive newsletters get opened.

1. Use Personalization

I have to admit that I thought this trick was outdated by now, but a recent Sherpa case study showed that not only did adding personalization to the subject line increase open rates by 5.13% more than regular emails but the personalization in the subject line also contributed to a 17.36% increase in the click through rate. Why would subject line personalization increase the click through rate? Their explanation is that the subject line got subscribers more interested in the email and more willing to click. Read the full case study here: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/article.php?ident=32157

2. Watch the News

Cable news shows are great at ending each news segment with a teaser to keep you sticking around through the commercials for the next segment. The teasers are usually short, intriguing and interesting – exactly the format you want for a good subject line.

3. Avoid the spam filter

Did you know that when an email is flagged by a spam filter, 35% of the time it is caused by the subject line? While it is probably safe to say that none of your automotive marketing subject lines begin with “FREE VIAGRA” did you know that starting a subject line with a $ can get you flagged?

Check your subject line in one of the many online spam checkers to make sure you aren’t inadvertently triggering a spam filter.

Additionally, here are three sources of lists with the trigger words you’ll want to avoid:

• Mequoda: http://www.mequoda.com/articles/email-marketing/subject-line-spam-trigger-words/

• Marketing TechBlog: http://www.marketingtechblog.com/subject-line-words-spam/

• SpamAssasin: http://spamassassin.apache.org/tests_3_3_x.html

4. Deadlines are Good

If there is a legitimate urgency to your offer, include it. For instance, “Only 3 Days Left” will outperform “Sale Going On Now.”

5. Less is More

Put your most important info at the beginning of the subject line and try to keep the content to less than 38 to 47 characters. Eliminate unnecessary words and be as concise as possible.

6. What’s in it for me?

How does your subject line benefit your customer? Read your subject line from the viewpoint of your customer – just because you care about the subject doesn’t mean your customers will.

7. Test, test, test.

Think you have the perfect subject line? You might be surprised. Try doing an A/B split test where you send an email with one subject line to a portion of your database, and a different subject line to another portion. See which one performs the best and then use that subject line with the balance of your database.

It’s not just your email campaigns you can improve, but the daily emails your sales team is sending out as well.

 

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How do you fix a bad reputation?

In my last post, we looked at ways to monitor your email reputation. Your email reputation determines whether companies like Hotmail and Yahoo deliver your automotive newsletter and other email messages to your customer’s inbox or spam folder. Email providers are very aggressive at keeping unwanted emails out of inboxes. Yahoo rejects 7 out of 8 emails. Hotmail rejects 1 out of 3 emails.

As I mentioned previously, customers can’t respond to messages they don’t know that they have so inbox delivery is critically important to generating the sales prospects we’re all looking for.

If you’ve discovered that you have a bad email reputation, here are seven steps you can take to fix it:

1) Eliminate spam traps. Spam traps are inactive email accounts that email providers monitor to identify spammers. Their justification is if the accounts aren’t active anymore then they should not be receiving email which means you are emailing to someone who hasn’t requested it.

Repercussions of sending to a spam trap can be severe such as having all of your emails blocked to that provider until you remove these spam traps from your list. Of course the difficulty is that no one will tell you which email address is the spam trap.

One option is to take a break from emailing your whole list and only send to those that have opened your emails. This will help you eliminate the spam traps on your list while dramatically increasing your open rates which the email providers like to see. I know eliminating people from your mailing list is blasphemous to some, but if they haven’t opened an email from you in the last year, how much of a loss is that prospect?

2) Reduce spam complaints. Add an unsubscribe link to the top of your emails to make it easier for people to unsubscribe – rather than just at the bottom. Studies show that a large percentage of people who report email as spam have actually requested the email so you want to make it as easy as possible for people to unsubscribe rather than hitting the “this is spam” button.

3) Analyze your message and frequency to make sure you are not creating database fatigue by over-sending messages that folks don’t want. Practice the email Golden Rule: email unto others as you would email to yourself. Does the customer who just purchased from you need to receive your email about the big sale you have going on?

4) See if your email service will allow you to create a suppression list. This is a list of email addresses that will not be imported/emailed which helps you pre-emptively avoid sending to bad email addresses. For instance, you might add prefixes such as “info@ or noreply@” and domains such as “yahooo.com or yahoo.c0m” If you need ideas for this list, look at your email addresses that are bouncing.

5) Make sure you are automatically removing opt-outs, complaints and bounces.  And then make sure you don’t continue to email unsubscribers after 10 days which not only leads to more spam complaints but can result in up to a $16,000 per incident fine from the FTC. http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business

6) Set up feedback loops if you haven’t already.  A feedback loop enables email providers to let you know the identity of people who have complained about your email so you can remove them from your list.

  • AOL http://postmaster.aol.com/Postmaster.FeedbackLoop.php
  • Comcast http://feedback.comcast.net/
  • Cox http://fbl.cox.net/
  • Hotmail https://support.msn.com/eform.aspx?productKey=edfsjmrpp
  • Rackspace http://fbl.apps.rackspace.com/
  • RoadRunner http://feedback.postmaster.rr.com/
  • USA.net http://fbl.usa.net/
  • Yahoo! http://feedbackloop.yahoo.net

7) Getting  blacklisted can also be due to identity issues with your sending domain. The three main causes of identity issues are incorrect records, sender authentication configuration issues, and basic DNS setup problems.

It’s a slow process to rebuild an email reputation but it is definitely worth the effort. Once you are back in the good graces of the email providers then apply for whitelisting status. Once you rebuild your reputation, make sure you regularly monitor it so you don’t find yourself back in the spam folder.

 

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The Reputation Score You’re Not Checking and Should Be

You’re probably monitoring your dealership’s reputation with customers on DealerRater and Google, but did you know there is another element of your dealership’s reputation that is being scored that can dramatically impact your store’s sales? This is the email reputation your dealership has with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc.

If you have a bad email reputation with the ISPs then the next time you hit the “send” button on an email campaign or for your automotive newsletters you’ll find a growing percentage of your emails delivered to your customers’ spam folders rather than their inbox. Customers can’t respond to messages they don’t know that they have so inbox delivery is critically important to generating the sales prospects we’re all looking for.

Here are a couple of free resources that will help you monitor your email reputation and make sure your automotive newsletters make it to the inbox:

1) Senderscore.org – This ranking measures your email volume, complaint rates, unknown users (hard bounces) and spam trap hits. (Spam traps are email addresses that have been inactive for a long period of time that the ISPs monitor. The theory is that if John Smith’s email has been inactive for two years and you’re sending email to that address then John probably didn’t request your email and it is most likely spam.)

2) Senderbase.org – This ranking will deliver a good, neutral or poor rating as well as tell you if you are on any DNSBL listing (blacklists).

3) http://postmaster.aol.com/Reputation.php – This tool will let you know what AOL thinks of you with a good, bad or neutral rating.

4) SNDS – Windows Live Hotmail Smart Network Data Services is a Hotmail-based report that displays daily delivery metrics by IP. With this tool you first need to sign-up and prove you have authorization to view the stats for your IP. This report includes delivery into all Hotmail-owned domains. I wish every ISP gave this detailed feedback that includes:

1) Date: The day your IP address sent at least 100 messages to the Hotmail portal
2) Sent/Delivered: Volume received by Hotmail and accepted by Hotmail
3) Color: Your total content delivered as likely spam, organized by color:
a. Green: 0-10% likely the message(s) are spam
b. Yellow: 11-90% likely the message(s ) are spam
c. Red: 91-100% the message(s ) are spam
4) Abuse Rate
5) Spam Traps

Sign-up information is at: https://postmaster.live.com/snds/FAQ.aspx#WhatIsSNDS

According to Microsoft, in the last few years they’ve reduced the amount of spam from almost 35% to less than 3% of the messages you see in your mailbox. They accomplish this by filtering out 5.5 billion spam messages out of Hotmail every day. That was BILLION and that was every single day.

Monitoring your email sender reputation will help you gauge whether or not your dealership’s emails and automotive newsletters are getting included in this group. Next week we’ll look at some ways you can improve your email reputation.

Technical note: to use the free lookup tools above, you’ll need to know the IP address your dealership is sending your emails from. If you don’t know the IP address, you can locate it in the header of one of the emails sent by your dealership.  For help go to: http://whatismyipaddress.com/find-headers

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12 Ways to Get More Connected to Automotive Customers in 2012

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Automotive newsletters continue to be one of the most cost-effective ways of staying connected with your customers, but they only work if you have your customers’ active email addresses (and their consent).

Here are 12 ways you can invite your customers to share their email with you.

1. Have you spiffed your advisors lately?
Run a promotion with your advisors and pay them $1 for each email address collected. Whatever percentage of emails that are collected during the promotion should be a good benchmark for the percentage that can be collected after the promotion.

If a $1/email sounds too expensive keep in mind that you’ll spend anywhere from $.68 to $1.25 in costs to mail a letter once you factor in time, paper, envelope, toner, and postage.

2. How about spiffing your customers?
Offer your customers an incentive to sign-up for your automotive newsletter such as a special service discount or enter them into a drawing for an iPad. If your emails and newsletters offer helpful, valuable content then your customers will stay with you once the incentive is over. Note: the best way to make sure you are getting the customer’s active email address is to email them the incentive or the registration confirmation rather than just handing them a coupon.

3. Facebook Sign-ups
Do something with all that traffic you’re sending to your Facebook page and invite people to sign-up for your automtive newsletter by including a sign-up form on your page. Use your wall posts and updates to reference upcoming newsletters and link to your subscription center.

4. Get more mileage from your website
Add a sign-up form to your most popular webpages. Make the sign-up easy to find and easy to complete. One dealer website required customers to create an account and then log in through that account in order to join their list… way too much effort for most customers. You might consider adding customer testimonials on your sign-up page to let new subscribers know what your current subscribers think of your emails and automotive newsletters.

5. Make every form a sign-up form
You have forms on your website to request test drives, request details on a vehicle, contact you, etc. These forms are already asking for the customer’s name and email. See if you can add a checkbox and an invitation to join your email list as well.

6. Make the love last after dealership events
If you’re hosting new owner clinics, chamber mixers, and other community events at your dealership where people are registering their attendance, include a sign-up option with the registration. Let them know by signing up for your automotive newsletter you’ll be able to keep them informed of other upcoming events.

7. Put the post office to work for you
Send a postcard (cheaper and more effective than a letter and envelope) to customers inviting them to go green and join your email list. Make sure you highlight what’s in it for them for joining. Caution: don’t let an email preference eliminate postal mailings. One dealer I know setup their CRM so when a customer opted to receive the dealer’s information by email, it marked the customer as Do Not Mail. Almost overnight they lost the permission to send postal mailings to a big chunk of their database. By the time the mistake was caught months later, they couldn’t separate which customers specifically didn’t want mailers from those that just preferred email.

8. Would you like fries with that?
Your F&I people, BDC callers, the cashiers, as well as your service advisors all have your customer’s attention either in-person or when they are on the phone with the customer and usually while the customer’s account information is open on the computer. Use this opportunity to ask the add-on question “Would you like to receive (insert manufacturer) updates and service coupons by email?” That approach usually gets a much more favorable response than the typical “Can I have your email address?”

9. At your service…
How many people do you have sitting in your service lounge right now? How many people go through there each day? Give them something to do rather than just watch old episodes of People’s Court on TV. Add a computer station with some nice signage inviting people to register. By using a computer terminal or an iPad, you don’t have to worry about typos or the data entry challenges that come from illegible writing on sign-up forms. Plus, you avoid this conversation: “What are those slips of paper in that box in the corner?” “Oh,
those are our automotive newsletter signups from last month/year that I haven’t had time to enter yet.”

10. As long as you’re going to kill a tree:
How many pieces of paper go into the hands of your customers each day? Repair estimates, service receipts, finance contracts, business cards and service reminder mailers are probably just a few. Why not add a line to the bottom of your printed materials inviting people to get your automotive newsletter and the online address they can sign-up at? Remember to tell them what the benefits are so they want to sign-up.

11. What’s black, white and read all over?
How about using a QR code that takes a visitor directly to your email sign-up page? These can be printed on everything from business cards to window stickers. Then, it is as easy as: point, shoot and sign-up… just make sure your webpage is optimized for mobile viewing. And while I don’t have any scientific evidence to support this, I do think it makes you look a whole lot cooler than a sign-up form on a clipboard.

12. Avoid taking one step forward and two steps back.
OK, this tip is less about getting subscribers for your automotive newsletter and more about not losing the ones you have. Make sure the content you are sending is of value to your customers. For example, if you bought a house last year, do you want your real estate agent to email you new listings each month? Give people content that educates and entertains and you’ll keep them coming back for more, as well as sharing with their social network… which can lead to more sign-ups.

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You Have an Evil Customer Sabotaging Your Online Marketing

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There is one customer who seems to have purchased a vehicle or service work from almost every dealership in the country. He is a master of disguises – sometimes he’s the nicest, little old lady and the next day he could be a first time car buyer.  It is amazing how much this guy gets around but even more amazing is the ongoing damage he causes:

  • Preventing your other customers from receiving your email messages because he’s convinced email providers like AOL and Hotmail that you’re not a reputable company.
  • Overinflating the amount of customers you have with email addresses by 10% or more.

Who is this guy and why does he have such an impact?

He has a few aliases he goes by. Here are two popular ones: “Does Not Have” and “Would Not Give.” You can probably look him up in your database right now by doing an email search for “DNH” or “WNG” and you’ll find tons of returns for:

DNH@a.com
WNG@1.com

But sometimes he’s a little sneakier and you’ll find him under:

None@none.com
NoEmail@test.com
1@1.com

The possibilities are really endless.

What is really happening is your employee is  asking a customer what their email address is and when the customer declines, your employee inputs in the bad email address to get credit for asking – not realizing that a bad email is much worse than no email.

While some 3rd party vendors sending your emails will do a data hygiene audit to remove these bad addresses, I’m guessing the email broadcasts coming from your dealership do not.

When you send an email broadcast with a high bounce rate due to bad email addresses, the email providers (Yahoo, Gmail, AOL) take note of that and use it as one of their determining factors in whether your email message gets delivered to your customer’s inbox, spam folder, or blocked entirely.

Send enough email broadcasts with high bounce rates and soon you’ll find your deliverability rate will be greatly impacted.

Additionally, most 3rd party vendors sending email on your behalf base some of their pricing on the number of emails in your list. If you’re paying to send to dnh@a.com then you’re raising your price unnecessarily.

So what can you do?

  1. Educate your employees on the problems with entering false email addresses. If they need to enter something to show they asked, then enter “declined” without the .com extension. By not including “.com” in the field most email programs won’t import that address so you’ll avoid the bad send.  (If the email field requires a “.com” then enter nothing.)
  2. Clean-up your database to remove bad addresses. You won’t have email addresses for your entire customer database so it may not be as large of a project as you think.
  3. Develop a confirmation email process to validate new emails that are entered.
  4. If your customers are receiving a benefit for signing up for your email notifications, email that benefit. So rather than hand them a $5 service coupon for joining your list, email them that coupon.

Online marketing options seem to change daily but basic marketing principles still hold true – collect accurate data on your customers so you can market to your base which is almost always more profitable than the cost to find and convert a new prospect.

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Top 3 Automotive Newsletter Mistakes

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Does your online customer newsletter suffer from these common mistakes?

Mistake #1: Boring Content… this stat might surprise you.

If your newsletters aren’t getting a 30% or more click through rate, your newsletter content isn’t engaging your customers like it should. If customers don’t see the value in clicking on your stories, it’s just a matter of time before they stop seeing the value of even opening your newsletter.

Even worse… email providers (AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.) monitor which emails their customers open. If your newsletters are consistantly not opened by a customer, that email provider can start delivering your newsletter to the spam folder instead.

We can show you two simple tricks to easily increase customer engagement with your newsletter while also generating hot leads for you.

Mistake #2: Lost Website Traffic

Do you have your menu navigation at the top of every page on your website? Of course you do because without easy access to the 40+ links most dealer websites have, you lose traffic. But do you have those same menu links at the top of your newsletter content pages?

At no extra charge, we build a custom microsite that matches the look, feel and navigation of your main website. This microsite hosts your newsletter content so all of your important links are just an easy click away.

Mistake #3: Outdated technology

Is your newsletter company keeping up with the latest email marketing advances? Are you taking advantage of:

SmartSend technology which delivers your newsletters to your customers’ inboxes at the time they typically check their email.

Triggered follow-ups that are automatically sent to your customers based on which story they click on. It’s just like having a virtual sales force.

Automated DMS integration so you know which of your customers read your newsletter and then purchased a vehicle and/or service work and the total dollars generated. Plus, you don’t have to mess with database exports.

We include all of these capabilities plus how-to videos, social media integration and more at one affordable price.

Mistake #4: Not taking advantage of a Free Demo and a 2 Month Free Trial

Ok, we promised three mistakes and we’re listing four.

May we put together a sample eNewsletter for you – personalized with your photo, your dealership’s info, and built on a microsite to match your website? (We’ll do all the work for you, at no obligation.)

If you like the sample, then we’d like to prove how effective our newsletters are by giving you two free months to see for yourself how much more sales and service revenue our newsletters can generate for you.

Interested? Simply call (800) 879-8870 or send us an email and we’ll start working on your sample eNewsletter.

Malinda Terreri

P.S.

If you choose to continue after the trial, we’ll send up to 5000 eNewsletters for just $487/mo without any long-term contracts. We handle everything – from content and distribution to tracking and reporting. What’s not to love about that? So please give us a call today.

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After Your Customer Kicks You to the Curb… unique ideas to increase sales with a video from the World’s Greatest Grief Counselor.

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There will always be customers – for whatever reason – that you lose to the competition. What often makes this bad situation worse is when the salesperson simply moves onto the next warm body coming in the door.

But step back for a minute. A lost sale today, doesn’t have to mean a permanently lost customer.

It actually presents a unique opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition. That’s because in your lost customer’s mind – you’re done. They’ve given you the bad news that they bought elsewhere. End of story.

So how much more of an impact would your salesperson’s follow-up make now?

It’s the unexpected that often makes a lasting impression – as you’ll see with the World’s Greatest Grief Counselor video in case #3:

Case #1: Lubing Them Up.
It’s been a week since the customer – that your salesperson worked long and hard with – took delivery someplace else. How do you think the customer would react to a phone call from your salesperson with an offer for a “We-Don’t-Usually-Do-This-But-How-About-A-No-Hard-Feelings” free oil change?Think that might make a lasting impression that you want a chance to earn their business again? Think they might tell their friends? Mention it on Facebook? (Yeah, I know you can’t do this for everyone but there are some cases where it does make sense.) And since research shows service customers are much more likely to buy from their dealership, there’s a real incentive to show them how much better your service department is than the competition.

Case #2: Heartbreak Anniversary
What if a year later your lost customer gets an email from you that says something like “You may not remember this anniversary… it was the day we lost your business to another dealer and we want you to know we’ll do everything we can to earn your business next time.” Think about it: You know when the customer will most likely be in the market again based on how long they owned their trade or what the lease term was they were interested in. Do you have a long-term plan to follow-up on this information? And due to dealership employee turnover, do you also have a process for dealing with orphaned customers so these opportunities and information are not lost?

Case #3: A Message from the World’s Greatest Grief Counselor
For our automotive eNewsletter customers, the customer saying “No” to the dealer comes in the form of hitting the unsubscribe button. On the oh-so-rare occasions when this happens, they are taken to a page where they can unsubscribe as usual, but we take a shot at making one last connection. On the dealer’s unsubscribe form is this humorous video message from the World’s Greatest Grief Counselor:

This page also gives them the unique option to say “Maybe” by letting them put their email subscription on Snooze for a period of time rather than opting-out completely.

Does that give you any ideas? What opportunities do you have to make an impact when it’s least expected?

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What does basketball have to do with automotive marketing?

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Here’s a lesson from Sports Illustrated that will explain (and sorry, it doesn’t involve the swimsuit models)…

In February 2009, the editors of Sports Illustrated asked the players in the National Basketball Association this question: “With a game on the line – where one shot will win or lose it – which player would you choose to take the last shot?”

Any idea? (If it helps, imagine Jeopardy music playing here.)

If you are like 76% of the people who took the survey, you answered… Kobe Bryant.

But guess what? As Harry Beckworth points out in his book “Unthinking,” at that time Kobe Bryant (the 12-time All-Star shooting guard) had the second worst average in the league for last minute shots – missing 75% of the time.

So why did so many well-informed players get it so wrong?

Beckworth explains that these players do what we all do and take shortcuts when they make decisions. They decide without really thinking:

“Like basketball fans, Kobe’s NBA colleagues had seen ESPN’s highlights for years, which included over a dozen clips of Bryant making game-winning shots. In ‘crunch time,’ as fans call these final moments, Kobe’s chiseled face conveys that any resistance to him will be futile.

“These players are just like us. Kobe has the most often seen face in professional basketball; he’s familiar. And… we humans are unusually biased toward choosing things that seem familiar.”

How can you make yourself more familiar to your customers than the competition? So you become the one dealer to go to, even if you don’t have the biggest inventory, newest dealership, and lowest prices?

One option… keeping in touch after the sale.

It doesn’t matter how ( *cough* although I would recommend an effective, automotive online newsletter), it boils down to making sure you have a long-term plan for delivering messages of value to your customers that make an impact.

So your customers think of you first when it’s crunch time for a repair or purchase.

And just to keep the basketball analogies going, WNBA Houston Coach Kevin Cook said, “You’re only as good as your last game, and our last game was pretty doggone good.”

What was your last message? What is your next message going to be?


Posted in Automotive Email Marketing, Social Media and Newsletters | Leave a comment